I love visiting the spa as much as I love traveling and I’ve made it a personal mission to either 1) visit some of the world’s most unique, top rated spas or 2) experience the most popular treatments a location has to offer. Though my list is nowhere near exhaustive, below is my list of current favorite experiences, ranked from most unique to most common experiences/treatments! This list will include spas from all around the world and will be regularly updated- let me know if you’ve been to one of the spas listed or if you had a spa that you think I should try in the comments.
Tip: Plan your visits in advance by checking with ahead with the spas to ensure they have availability during the time of your trip! And please, tip your massage therapist!
- Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa | Arenal, Costa Rica
My most recent, and favorite spa experience thus far would be at the Tabacon Thermal Resort in the Fortuna area in Costa Rica. This 5 star experience commanded a 5 star price but it was well well worth it!
The mood of the spa is completely set as the bungalows are tucked away toward the back of the property, nestled in the rainforest between the hot springs. You’re first given a robe (or you can take the robe from your hotel room) and are escorted to the private hot tub area while you await your service. This is all after checking in, washing your hands and taking off whatever you don’t want to wear during your massage (birthday suit is appropriate). Once ready, you’re then escorted to the outdoor bungalow, awaited by the sounds and smells of nature, while you’re indulged in your service of choice. If you go with an exfoliation or wrap (which I recommend both), your service will end with you naked in the rainforest, washing off in the hot spring water-it’s as amazing as it sounds, believe me. If I had it my way, I’d be able to relive this experience, over and over again.
The exact service I received was the Corporal Deluxe, 75 minutes of heaven, a combination of an exfoliation (I did the Cocoa Exfoliation) and a wrap (I did the Volcanic Mud Wrap)- I’d highly recommend it! There was a special running, so we received 25% off the usual $170 USD price. Check their website for updating pricing and specials!
- Coqui Coqui Spa | Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
The Yucatan Peninsula has been getting a lot of attention as the home to Tulum, Mexico, where travelers have been flocking in the past few years, but not many are hip to the Coqui Coqui Papolchac Residence & Spa located in Coba, right outside of Tulum. Coba is the ancient Mayan city of the Yucatan Peninsula in Quintana Roo and though the spa is not a ruin itself, it is modeled after one. In my recap and review of the spa, HERE, I outline how to make the 45 minute trek to get to Coba from Tulum.
At the time of writing my review, I stated that this was the best massage of my life, and while it was true in that moment, the massage I received shortly after in Costa Rica might have slightly topped it due to the rainforest setting.
Coqui Coqui offers many different services but the spa is small, only allowing 2 appointments at a time. Check HERE for the spa menu. They offer a variety of services from 45 minute back massages, 60 minute facials, 90 minute hot stone massages, and even 3hr long “rituals” complete with deep tissue massages, exfoliations and botanical baths. The price and time will differ based on what service you choose. I opted for the hot stone massage and it was the perfect amount of time, pressure, and attention that my body needed (90 minutes & $128 USD)- I lucked up as my friend was getting her Regeneration treatment at the same time, so I was able to experience pieces of her treatment just by being in in the same room!
No matter what treatment you opt for, you’ll get to decide what scent you want for your oil. The spa actually produces their own oils and perfumes, available for purchase post your service! You then wait for your service either inside their lounge or outdoors, in one of the many pools or lounging poolside! During the service, you’re escorted toward the back of the building, where there’s a bit more privacy. The hot stone massage started with simple oils and a full body massage whilst the stones warmed before being added on, they were the perfect temperature. Some of the other treatments involve wraps and exfoliants so you’ll rinse off a few times during your treatment before ending in an oil and coconut filled tub- this is the part that I lucked up with experiencing because my friend was getting her treatment at the same time as my massage. If/when I go back, I’d try the entire Regeneration treatment- I’d also recommend this or the hot stone massage for anyone looking to visit!
- Protea Kruger Gate Hotel & Spa by Marriott| Kruger South Africa
The Protea Spa at the Kruger National Park, my second spa experience ever, introduced me to the luxury (and dare I say necessity) of facials! I received the African Goddess Golden Facial, which included an upper body massage, and my skin was absolutely glowing for the rest of our trip, at least 7 more days! Treatment takes place overlooking the Sabie River and Park, to the tune of the sounds of nature and nearby animals and birds. The massage therapists are specially trained in the various African inspired treatments.
I honestly wish I could experience this and other treatments at this spa again -not only did I love my treatment and afterglow, but the entire experience from the knowledge and skill of the staff to the ambience they’ve been able to curate for a top-notch experience were unmatched.
I don’t often receive facials, but this is something I’d honestly want to do more frequently, maybe 2x a year.
- Emdoneni Lodge | Hluhluwe, South Africa
The Emdoneni Lodge & Spa is where I visited the spa for the first time in my life! With little to no knowledge of the spa or any of the treatments, I talked with the staff and some of my trip mates to decide what my first ever spa treatment should be and the unanimous decision was absolutely a deep tissue massage. We had just made the 14 hour journey from NYC to Johannesburg, so naturally, there was tightness/soreness of my muscles. For $40 USD, my life was quite literally changed, the experience was so lux and I felt so limber after the massage, I booked another spa appointment during our South Africa trip!
This deep tissue treatment lasted 60 minutes, with the massage therapist continually checking in with me in regards to pressure, areas I really wanted her to focus and overall how I was doing throughout- I felt completely spoiled!
My love for the spa was absolutely birthed here! I’d not only recommend this lodge for any visiting South Africa but I’d definitely say carve out time for a quick spa treatment whilst there.
- Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort | Nathrop, Colorado (Outside of Aspen & Breckenridge)
We didn’t stay at the Princeton Hot Springs Resort, but we did opt for day passes to take advantage of their famous hot springs and spa. For those who may not know, a hot spring, also known as a thermal spring, is a natural body of water, produced by geothermally heated groundwater (usually from volcanic activity) from the Earth’s crust. Soaking in a hot spring can be a great, natural detox for your skin, with abilities to help with conditions like psoriasis, acne, eczema and even helping to soften rough, dry skin. It is essentially like a giant, natural hot tub and could be considered it’s own “spa treatment”. If you want to experience Mt. Princeton hot springs, you can! Check HERE for the Hot Spring Hours and Rates for information on general admission to the historic bath house, upper pools and Creekside hot springs.
We wanted to get spa treatments, which included access to the hot springs all day in between services. I opted for one of my favs, the 60 minute deep tissue massage for $130 USD. The property had a small café where we were able to grab smoothies and snacks throughout the day-which was needed after hanging in the hot springs. My massage alone was just okay, I would ask my masseuse to apply more pressure in certain areas or to focus more on my legs vs back but she was super combative, I still enjoyed my massage, but knowing I’ve had more attentive massage therapists in the past was frustrated, but what made this overall experience great was definitely the hot springs! (Note: my friends, who had different massage therapists all LOVED their massages)
My massage was one of the later appointments, so I spent most of the morning in the naturally, heated pool. Though it was 40° F, the pool was so warm once you were inside that the contrasting temperatures actually felt great. You definitely need to have most of your body emerged in the water to not be cold. After my massage, we decided head to the springs portion, where you sat on the rocks in the naturally heated water. And again, despite being cold outside, you didn’t feel cold once inside the water- you actually felt great!
Be sure to pack a swimsuit and swim shoes/sandals! It may seem common sense, but I forgot my swim suit so I had to wear shorts and a sports bra and we all had to buy the $10 flip flops from the resort. There are lockers available onsite to secure/hold any belongings.
- Riad Tahra & Spa | Fes, Morocco
Are you familiar with a traditional Moroccan Hammam Massage? The Hammam massage technique is a centuries old Moroccan ritual, that uses hot steam to achieve a deep and invigorating cleanse-essentially, an intense bath. Women are typically, completely naked (or you can opt to wear a bikini bottom or undergarment), while men will wear bottoms.
I figured, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”, so while in Morocco, I had to try the Hamman massage. All of the Riads (Moroccan style hotel/guesthouse) that we stayed in offered this as a spa treatment (in addition to all of the standalone spas throughout the country), but, for no real reason, we didn’t decide to visit the spa until we got to Fes.
Massage times and specifics will differ by location, so at Fes my treatment cost $30USD and lasted 50 minutes and again, it was essentially an intense and relaxing, private bath. I was taken to the back of the spa, in a dimly lit, warm room with a huge tub of water. I undressed and the masseuse lathered me up, massaging my body with various oils and creams and rinsing them with hot water, 1-by-1. It was a very unique experience, and though I was uncomfortable at first, I’d most likely do it again!
- Traditional Thai Massage | Phuket, Thailand
While in Thailand in 2017, I had a few things on my bucket-list, and at the top was absolutely getting a traditional Thai massage. In a traditional Thai massage, practitioners use their hands, thumbs, elbows, forearms, and even their feet to reduce tension in your muscles, this plus the combination of stretching and movements distinguishes a Thai massage from other massage techniques. You also may be more sore post a Thai massage versus receiving other types of techniques.
While we were in Phuket, we noticed spas on almost every corner, so we priced a few spas and went with the one where we felt gave us the best deal- time of massage for price paid. While I don’t remember the exact price we paid, I know it wasn’t over $50USD. The beds were placed on the ground, which was necessary for the masseuse to be able to use their feet/stand on your back and really do some of the movements needed for the treatment. Most of the spas weren’t super lux, by any means, it was one of the best massages I’ve received, I felt so relaxed afterward and got all of the knots worked out of my back and legs!
If/when visiting Thailand, you MUST get a Thai massage. While you don’t want to go anywhere that would be seen as dirty, obviously, I’d focus less on aesthetics and make sure it’s a legit spa/massage parlor and that you’re not overpaying.
- Bella Shine | Hong Kong
While in Hong Kong, we knew we’d be remiss to not take advantage of the super inexpensive massages that were available! A local friend recommended the Bella Shine Spa and though we were initially apprehensive of the location, it seemed like an abandoned area in the Industrial area of Kwun Tong, I thoroughly enjoyed my massage! I went for a personal fav treatment, a traditional deep tissue massage that lasted 60 minutes, for $50USD. There was nothing particularly special about the spa or even the treatment, it was a simple, low frills, yet excellent massage!
I like to take advantage of getting massages while traveling throughout Asia because they’re typically just that, low-frills, yet excellent with technique! If you’re looking to get a massage while traveling over that way, I’d say you don’t need to find any overly expensive massage parlor to get a quality massage.
- Serenity Spa | Poconos, Pennsylvania
While this is currently the last ranked on my list, that does not mean I did not thoroughly enjoy my experience at the Serenity Spa while visiting the Poconos! While visiting the Serenity Spa, I opted for a traditional hot stone massage for 55 minutes for $85 USD! The massage therapist was very attentive to me and my body throughout the entire experience. Serenity was akin to a typical massage parlor, with not many bells and whistles, but if you’re looking for a great treatment in the Poconos area, this is your go-to!